By Debra Smith — Wild Word guest columnist
I am the school secretary in a high school building. My desk is right inside the front door, the first thing the student see when they rush out. It is a small building, without the staff of larger districts, so my job includes attendance, handing out bandaids, working for the building principal. It is rewarding, with a lot of variety, but my favorite part is the children, the young adults, who are there to become mature adults.
I am the kind of person who wants people to succeed. I don’t mind taking the extra time to make sure staff and students have the tools they need. I view the whole school building as family. And most of them have a mutual feeling of affection. One time, as my husband stopped in to give me some papers I needed to sign, he caught one of the teachers who goes to our gym giving me a cupcake, a delicious cupcake, chocolate, heavy with frosting, covered with sprinkles, just the kind of thing we joke about at the gym… “What happens at the high school stays at the high school,” she told him sternly. Even though she knew he didn’t care. We take care of each other.
Since attendance and tardiness are part of my job, the kids I get to know the best are the ones who might not always be considered the best kids. I see them the most. I know their names, and their student ID numbers, and sometimes I know the stories of why they were late. And sometimes it breaks my heart. A mom arrested for a simple possession charge, a father arrested for domestic violence, fights, police, social workers. I hear it all. Kids telling me because they need to tell someone, and they know I will listen.
And there are the kids who are just not going to conform to the rigors of academic life. Punctuality is a burden they can’t tolerate, and nothing I say is going to change that. So I check them in, send them on their way, with a smile and a sincere request that they work on getting there on time, please.
“I will, Mrs. Smith,” they tell me, even though we both know it won’t happen. “Oh, she’s cool,” they tell each other as they go to waste a day in my building.
And there is the other end of the spectrum, the kids in the robotic class who come to me beaming about their latest accomplishment. Overcoming some difficulty with an arm, or grabber, or…